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Community management

Community management

Community management

Sep 1, 2023

How to communicate the impact of your community efforts to leadership?

Kelly choi

Community manager @ Octopus Deploy

Intro

Communities are becoming increasingly important in the workplace, not only internally, to connect with others but also to help brands build adoption with their customers. As a result, more stakeholders are increasingly interested in the efforts of their community teams.


However, many community professionals and teams struggle to converse about the impact of their initiatives. One of the reasons is that these teams are not measured by vanity metrics such as incremental members or sale conversions, and this can therefore make it difficult to showcase their successes. Furthermore, efforts within many communities are not instant and tend to be showcased through long-term strategies and techniques. Metrics also vary depending on what the end goal is, so for some, it's engagement, whereas for others, it's detailed community feedback and product analysis.


If the impact is not visible or communicated effectively, this could cause friction between teams, priorities and even budgets to enable teams to perform. Therefore, communicating the impact of your community efforts to your peers is equally as important as any other goal.


You may be wondering what’s the best way to showcase the impact you’re making within your community. If so, keep reading.

Decide who you are communicating the performance of your community to

  • Leadership: Communicate the impact of your community on key strategic business goals.

  • Stakeholders from all departments: Communicate the performance of each department’s involved processes and then conclude together with the stakeholder from a specific department how the performance of that involved process impacted the main metrics that they are tracking.

Decide how often you are going to communicate the community impact

Note that with the stakeholders from all the different departments, you will always be in a continuous conversation to manage the cooperation of their involved processes in the community, however, having a dedicated conversation about the impact of the community initiative should happen at least once every month. Likewise, you want to communicate the impact of the community initiative to leadership at a minimum, once every month. Especially in the early stages, this is key to get leadership on your side and make sure that they understand the lifecycle of this initiative. Remember, you don’t want them to die down on you halfway.

Communicating the community impact during the first stage after the launch of the community

In this stage you will mainly be reporting and communicating on actual member behavior. Since it is too early to actually measure the effect of the community on key strategic business goals or specific department objectives, focus on your own set goal for this stage and the member behavior that was needed to achieve this goal. Report what type of behavior your community members are performing, whether this is in line with your expected behavior and if this behavior led to reaching your goal for this stage. If not, cover what needs to change in your members’ behavior and how you are going to make sure that this member behavior will change. In this stage it is more about stickiness of your community with members, than member growth. The stickier your community, the more it indicates that your community environment will affect key strategic business goals and department objectives as it matures. Therefore, it might already be relevant to report on stickiness metrics such as active members, unanswered posts and member retention. Communicate this to leadership as well as the involved stakeholders that represent each involved department.

Communicating the community impact during and after its maturity stage

By now, your community has established itself. The number of members has grown and the community is sticky enough to keep existing members engaged and active. From this stage on, you will probably be able to start measuring the effect of the community on key strategic business goals or specific department objectives. So, first start by communicating the performance of each involved process from different departments and how it impacted their objectives and metrics. Note that this will not just be something that you as the community manager report on, but which should be covered in an open dialogue with the stakeholders from the department, where some of the described inputs come from your side and others come from the departments’ side. The examples and inputs stated below, are completely dependent on the specific department’s goals and the processes of theirs that are involved with the community initiative, so carefully look at your specific scenario and determine what you guys are going to cover:

  1. Support: Cover topics such as how many support cases have been deflected, how much the average support ticket duration has been reduced, what the balance is between support tickets created in the direct support channel VS questions asked in the community. Either you or the department itself is also going to have come with input about how the before mentioned performances impacted their main objectives and key metrics. Either way, cover topics such as the total amount of support costs that have been saved and the customer satisfaction rate.

  2. Product: Cover topics such as the number of feature requests, the feature requests with the most support from other members, member feedback on newly released features, new feature adoption under community members, and segmented customer needs. Either you or the department itself is also going to have come with input about how the before mentioned performances impacted their main objectives and key metrics. Either way, cover topics such as customer satisfaction, the change in daily or monthly active users and session duration.

  3. Marketing: Cover topics such as the number of non-member visitors, the number of views on specific resources, engagement levels with resources, the number of non-customer community members, and engagement levels with niche-based posts or discussions. Either you or the department itself is also going to have come with input about how the before mentioned performances impacted their main objectives and key metrics. Either way, cover topics such as user growth, cost per acquisition, and customer lifetime value.

  4. Success: Cover topics such as the number of unanswered posts, the number of views on specific resources, requests for specific resources, the active members rate, frequently asked questions, and gamification levels under different customer segments. Either you or the department itself is also going to have come with input about how the before mentioned performances impacted their main objectives and key metrics. Either way, cover topics such as customer churn rate, customer onboarding costs, and trial to paid conversion rate.

  5. Sales: Cover topics such as the number of non-customer community members, who they are and how they are acting in the community, and requests from existing customers to identify upsell opportunities. Either you or the department itself is also going to have come with input about how the before-mentioned performances impacted their main objectives and key metrics. Either way, cover topics such as total revenue, customer lifetime value, Y-o-Y growth, and the conversion rate of leads coming from the community.


Now you have a clear understanding of the performance of the community and how it impacted all the involved departments of the company. The next step is to communicate this to leadership. Bundle all your findings from your conversations with the stakeholders from the specific departments. Cover each involved department’s processes and the performance of that process in your community, as well as the key metrics and department objectives that it has impacted. Hopefully, by now you are aware of the company's key strategic business objectives and the main incentive behind launching this community initiative. While communicating the impact of the community initiative to leadership, it is important to cover how their prioritized key strategic business objectives have been influenced. Usually, this is easier than it sounds. For example, if leadership is focused on reducing customer churn, focus more on your findings from your conversations with customer success and the product team, so you can directly display how the community efforts have influenced customer satisfaction, customer lifetime value, daily or monthly active users, session duration, and most importantly the change in the customer churn rate. It is a case of prioritizing the parts of your conversations and findings with the different departments, that leadership is focused on most at the moment, and displaying that as clearly as possible.

Tips for effective communication

Effective communication is crucial. In many workplaces, there are many silos between teams that can create barriers to success. Everyone is busy and has their own priorities, and therefore it can be easy to miss out on what other teams are doing. You could produce many updates through reports, presentations and Zoom meetings, but if your communication isn’t concise, there isn’t any point. When providing updates on impact, be specific as to what you achieved and how this supports your company’s goals. What does this mean for them? Why should they be interested in what the community is doing and how it’s performing? For example, you’ve recruited ten community members to participate in feedback about your product. Great, but so what? Suppose you were to turn around and say that those ten members were interviewed and provided a crucial piece of information that highlighted a bug or error within your system. In that case, you’ll already have product teams interested and developers keen to fix the problem. Sales may also jump in to understand how that feedback can be relayed to potential customers in the future or how to turn a negative into a positive. By simply understanding how the community impacts other teams and relaying this information correctly, you’ve already shown the importance and impact of the community you’re managing. This is the first barrier to break down, but once you’ve perfected effective communication, sharing your impact becomes much easier.

Tips to enable discussions

People are naturally open and inquisitive to learning, so you must give them a reason to listen. Explain the importance of community and how this impacts more than just your specific team. Communities are essentially there to bring people together, and communicating your impact is another part of it. Enable discussions between your peers, allow them to innovate and support you on what you’re trying to achieve. These conversations help you make connections with your peers and present so many opportunities to understand what is important not only now but for the future too.

For example, if you’re giving away swag, this can create a lot of buzz in your community. But what does this mean for your design or office teams when a sudden influx of orders comes in? Let them know that the individuals who got gifted swag were loyal customers who are actively promoting your company to others at industry events and meetups. Although the impact isn’t direct, this highlights that you understand how cross-collaboration works. Better still, they understand your impact.

Ok, so you have great relationships with your peers and clear communication, but there’s still something missing. Your team still doesn’t understand the impact you’re making. What next?


Prepare

Prepare for questions, unknown scenarios and “what next?”. If you’ve created noise and interest around what the community has achieved, you’ve taken the first few steps. Now you need to know your audience. You’ve gathered interest, but you need to know what each stakeholder will want to ask. To make communication even more effective, know your audience. Your CEO may not want to know every single piece of work you’re doing to create an impact in your community. On the flip side, your product teams may want to know how you recruit new community members into your space. For example, they’re looking for DevOps engineers with specific experience to join the community so that, further down the line, they can give feedback on the best features. Looking to promote your community at an art fair may not be the best thing to do. Consult with others, and whilst doing so, share with them how both of you could help each other. This form of communication can lead others to be inspired by the work you do and the impact you are having across more than your direct team.


Articulate the right way

Articulating this well will do you wonders for the future. Ensure your successes are documented, as it can be easy to forget what you and your team have achieved. Furthermore, different team members may process information differently. A written version of your efforts can help explain what went well and what to improve on within your company and team’s goals. Never use jargon or unnecessarily complicated words unless they’re relevant to what your community has achieved. This will confuse your readers.


With the above tips and steps, you should see improved interest in your community efforts and the impact you have provided. Specific communication and how you relay information is key in helping portray your efforts to your peers. Good luck!

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The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.

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